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Three Ways to Cook a Turkey

Posted by JJ Jacobson on November 21, 2012

These three recipes are from a Swedish immigrant cookbook: Fullständigaste Svensk-Amerikansk kokbok (Popular Swedish-American cookbook)  which I wrote about here.

Immigration and ethnic communities is a significant area in which culinary history sheds light on a larger theme in American history.   Immigrant women had a reason for needing cookbooks. They had come to a place where kitchen tools and measurements were different than those they had learned as children. Ingredients they had known in the Old Country often needed substitution in America. They were pulled in two directions – maintaining familiar foodways, and adapting to their new environment. Through publications by and for immigrants, we can trace the process of becoming American, accommodating American foodstuffs and foodways and creating a cultural identity that was both, for instance, Swedish and American.

This title is an all-purpose cookbook and household manual, published in 1897 Chicago, at that time a jumping-off point for many Swedish immigrants headed for frontier communities, and itself possessed of a sizable Swedish-American community.  Besides recipes it covers availability, preservation and keeping qualities, nutrition, and digestibility of foodstuffs.  It also includes menus, and ways of serving ( French, with all the dishes on the table, Russian, with diners’ individual plates composed at the sideboard, and the tradition of the Smörgåsbord as served before meals.) The recipes are mainly American, but a few are identified as belonging to other cuisines, such as the following…

Turkey stuffed in French manner. Remove from turkey weighing from seven to eight pounds all the inside matter; then dry it with a clean towel, but use no hot water. Take five pounds of meat from a young steer calf, scrape away all cords and chop it. Mix the minced meat with half a pound of kidney lard, half a pound of ox marrow and a portion of stuffing. Work this for a while until it becomes fine and smooth; then add three eggs, salt and pepper to suit, also a wine glass of French brandy. Mix well again and fill with it that part of the turkey where it had the crop, but on the uppermost part below the skin, put in slices of dressing. The stomach is tilled in the same manner. Next sew the turkey together and line it with large slices of pork. The turkey ought to lie filled in this way three or four days in order to get the taste of the stuffing in the meat. Roast it but slightly and put it whole on the table. Remember that the stuffing swells. Hence do not fill too much.


Roast turkey in English way. Kill several days before cooking, and let it hang by the legs until used. Prepare in theusual manner; stuff with bread crumbs—rejecting the crust—rubbed fine, moistened with butter and two eggs, and seasoned with salt, pepper, parsley, sage and sweet marjoram; sew up, truss and place to roast in a rack within the dripping-pan; spread with bits of butter, tum it and baste it frequently with butter, pepper, salt and water; a few minutes before it is done glaze over with the white of an egg; take up the turkey, pour off most of the fat, add the chopped giblets and the water in which they were boiled, which thicken with flour and butter rubbed together: stir all in the dripping pan, let it boil well, and serve in a gravy dish. Serve with celery-sauce and stewed gooseberries or cranberries. Garnish with fried oysters. Select a turkey of eight to ten pounds. If in roasting it is likely to brown too much, cover with a white paper, buttered.

Engraving of a whole roast turkey

and finally

Roast turkey in American way. Dress and rub the turkey well, inside and out, with salt and pepper; truss or twine it; put in a steamer and steam two hours, or until it begins to grow tender, lifting the cover occasionally and sprinkling lightly with salt; then take out, loosen the legs, and rub the inside again with salt and pepper. Make the stuffing as follows: Take a loaf of stale bread, take off the crust and soften it in a pan of boiling water; drain off immediately and cover closely; crumble the soft part of the bread very fine, and add half pound melted butter, or more if to be very rich, and a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Drain off the liquor from a quart of nice oysters, bring to a boil, skim and pour over the bread crumbs, adding the soaked crust and one or two eggs; mix thoroughly with thehands, and if too dry, moisten with a little’ milk; lastly, add the oysters, being careful not to break them; or first put in a spoonful of stuffing and then three or four oysters, and so on until the turkey is filled, stuffing the breast first. Flour a small cloth and place over the openings, tying down with twine; spread the turkey all over with butter, salt and pepper; place in a dripping-pan in a well heated oven; add a half pint water, and roast two hours, basting of ten with a little water, butter, salt and pepper, kept warm in a tin placed on the back of the stove. A swab is better than a spoon to baste with. Turn until nicely browned on all sides, and about half an hour before it is done, baste with. butter alone and dredge with a little flour, which will give the turkey a frothy appearance. When the turkey is dished, if there is much fat in the pan, pour off most of it and add the giblets, together with the water in which they have previously been cooked until tender, now stewed down to about a pint; place one or two tablespoons flour (half of it browned flour) in a pint bowl, mix smooth in a little cream or milk, and add to the gravy in the pan; boil several minutes, constantly stirring and pour into a gravy tureen. Serve with currant or apple jelly.

Engraving of a whole roast turkey with garnish

However you celebrate, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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Class and Gender

Posted by JJ Jacobson on April 9, 2012

 I talked to a Women’s Studies class last week, about how gender and class are constructed in 19th century cookbooks and domestic manuals. The aim of the class was to make the students (all freshmen) familiar with working with primary source materials.  What follows is an edited version of my talk.

We’re looking at cookbooks and housekeeping manuals, written mostly by and for middle-class women. On the surface of it, these practical books for how to do practical things. The question is, what can we find in these books to tell us about the world in which they were created? What traces of their social context do they bear?

First, why were such books published? Better yet, what need was the author trying to fill?  Often, in the beginning of such books, the author will ask and answer that question, sometimes after apologizing for publishing another such book when there are already so many on the market. One strategy is for the author to say that none of the published books will fill a specific need as well as this one. For instance, economical meals within the capacity of the inexperienced cook, or sound advice for the young wife just going into housekeeping. Other books, the author then asserts, assume too much knowledge on the part of the reader, are impractical, or aren’t built on the same wealth of experience. Another strategy is for the author to say that she has long been consulted by her daughters, neighbors, readers, etc, and in answer to their express wishes has made this trove of information and practice available to the public. A complimentary strategy is for the author to say that she remembers the perplexities she faced when she begin to keep house, and wants to save the reader those torturous hours of confusion and frustration. The general theme is that there is a body of technique that the reader now needs to master, having been taught it neither at home nor at school, and this book with its wise counsels is the best source for it.

Cookbook and domestic manual authors didn’t confine themselves to telling readers how to cook particular dishes and perform specific household chores. Some of them had a project to extoll or promote specific values, often having to do with traditional female virtues like devotion to family, gentle manners, and selflessness. This gives us information about both the author and her world. You can read a lot from the energy an author puts into her descriptions. The more strident the author is, the more she goes into flights of eloquence about, say, women’s duties and burdens, the more reason we have to think that she’s promoting her pet values because she thinks they need bolstering, which tells us that she didn’t see them being played out in American society, at least not to her satisfaction.

Catherine Beecher is an excellent example of this. Her writings lay great stress on the values Americans should use to guide their actions and decisions. She identifies these values as fundamental to American civilization, which is to say she asserts that they’re already in play, but she also promotes them vigorously, recommending them to the reader as the cure for numerous societal problems. Some values apply to all Americans, but her real focus is on American women.

Beecher had a large project about gender and social relations. She tried to reconcile the inequality of women with an egalitarian democracy by emphasizing the importance of woman’s sphere of domesticity.  The way she saw it, the world was divided into equally important male and female spheres. They were definitely equal, and definitely separate. Women weren’t to be subordinate because they were inferior to men, but because the subordination of some people to others (children to parents, servants to masters, women to men) helped society function more smoothly. Therefore it was women’s duty to the good of the nation to accept their subordinate place. At the same time, they were to understand that their contribution to the American nation was essential and of the highest value, and so to take pride in successfully carrying out their household and family duties.  Women’s contribution was shaping “the intellectual and moral character of the mass of people” by the influence of home life on their husbands and children. Also, women counteracted commercial and acquisitive values by creating a home where duty and benevolence ruled.  The good American home was a stable base in a chaotic, rapidly changing society. Beecher’s aim was to “standardize and systematize American domestic practices” as a basis for national unity. The example of order and system was always to be before family members so they’d carry it into public life.

Beecher’s writing is more clearly polemical than that of other writers on women’s work, but similar sentiments can be found in many cookbooks and domestic manuals. Let’s look at some of the ways gender and class are constructed in these genres. You could, by the way, gain similar insights from advertising ephemera, books on etiquette, books on women’s employment, and books addressed to servants. A subject search on “Women — Social and moral questions” will also turn up a number of interesting sources. These insights come from reading the materials closely, paying attention to what the authors assume about women and their sphere, and the way they describe women’s day-to-day concerns: their activities, challenges, problems, and aims. Forewords, prefaces, and introductory chapters are a particularly fertile source for this, but these kinds of descriptions are often scattered throughout the books, alongside recipes and housekeeping instructions, or in chapters on management of servants, entertaining, or the service of meals.

 Constructing Gender:

  • One very important way gender is constructed in these materials is in terms of what women were simultaneously assumed and enjoined to care about.

Beecher constructs gender in terms of women’s responsibilities to their families and communities, to the US as a pioneering democracy, and therefore to the progress of civilization, and therefore to the whole world.  Other writers don’t go quite as far, at least not explicitly, but the idea is often hovering in the background that women, in fulfilling their domestic duties, are making the world a better place.

This quote from The Young Housekeeper’s Friend  (1859) sets the stage for the importance of women’s responsibilities, by drawing out  the consequences of their behavior.

“Every woman is invested with a great degree of power over the happiness and virtue of others. She cannot escape using it, and she cannot innocently pervert it. There is no avenue or channel of society through which it may not send a salutary influence ; and when rightly directed, it is unsurpassed by any human instrumentality in its purifying and restoring efficacy.”

I’ll talk more about this way of constructing gender in a minute, but first let’s look a little more closely at some of what women were responsible for.

  • Gender was constructed around women as the creators of home comfort in certain ways of cooking and serving meals
  • Gender was constructed around women as creators and guardians of health and nutrition in choosing what to cook and serve

In the works we’re considering, food has a number of jobs to do. Writers stressed its importance as a source of comfort or pleasure, a cause of good or bad health, and even essential to a person’s effectiveness in the world.  In feeding their families, then, women were charged with a higher mission.  It was women’s task to see that food, in the family’s life, did its various jobs.

Moreover, cookbooks and housekeeping manuals are full of talk about the need for order and system. Sometimes this is just advice for how to get through the work of housekeeping and cooking, which was a lot of work in the 19th century. But often it has a social or even moral dimension. Orderly domestic doings become, in some authors’ commentary, a reflection on the character of the mistress of the household, and they are crucial to her mission, as a woman, to make her home a place that promotes the health, comfort, serenity, and good spirits of the family members, and even their moral character. In some authors’ hands, disorderly housekeeping, including the hurried or ill-tempered serving of meals, becomes a sign of a sloppy soul, and the lack of comfort and cheer it entails puts the family members in danger of falling into dissolute habits, for instance in seeking fulfillment, comfort, or amusement outside the home.

For example, consider these quotes from The Young Housekeeper’s Friend

“How often do we see the happiness of a husband abridged by the absence of skill, neatness, and economy in the wife! Perhaps he is not able to fix upon the cause, for he does not understand minutely enough the processes upon which domestic order depends, to analyze the difficulty; but he is conscious of discomfort. However improbable it may seem, the health of many a professional man is undermined, and his usefulness curtailed, if not sacrificed, because he habitually eats had bread.”

And, a little later on

 “If this subject has a direct bearing upon the health of families, so also does it exert an immediate influence upon their virtue. There are numerous instances of worthy merchants and mechanics whose efforts are paralyzed, and their hopes chilled by the total failure of the wife in her sphere of duty; and who seek solace under their disappointment in the wine-party, or the late convivial supper.”

  • By the same token, gender is constructed around women as the creators of home comfort in cleanliness and order, and in overall attractiveness as an environment.

The family fireside was a locus of virtue in the 19th century, where values like charity, civility, and piety were reinforced. Women were to secure the place of the home as the center of family members’ lives by making it a desirable place to be. This would make family members both virtuous and happy.

From The Virginia House-Wife, or Methodical Cook  (1828)

“The prosperity and happiness of a family depend greatly on the order and regularity established in it. The husband, who can ask a friend to partake of his dinner in full confidence of finding his wife unruffled by the petty vexations attendant on the neglect of household duties–who can usher his guest into the dining-room assured of seeing that methodical nicety which is the essence of true elegance,–will feel pride and exultation in the possession of a companion, who gives to his home charms that gratify every wish of his soul, and render the haunts of dissipation hateful to him. The sons bred in such a family will be moral men, of steady habits; and the daughters, if the mother shall have performed the duties of a parent in the superintendence of their education, as faithfully as she has done those of a wife, will each be a treasure to her husband; and being formed on the model of an exemplary mother, will use the same means for securing the happiness of her own family, which she has seen successfully practised under the paternal roof.”

  • Gender was constructed around women as the creators of home comfort in cheerfulness, patience, attention and other ways of creating a pleasant social atmosphere.

This was a part of a woman’s role as caretaker, responsible for family members’ moods, as well as their physical and moral well-being

Beecher, in her Treatise on Domestic Economy  (1842) stresses women’s duty to be agreeable and conciliating to those around her, and, implicitly, her duty not to show her emotions or express her thoughts in a way that might be uncomfortable for others.

“THERE is nothing, which has a more abiding influence on the happiness of a family, than the preservation of equable and cheerful temper and tones in the housekeeper. A woman, who is habitually gentle, sympathizing, forbearing, and cheerful, carries an atmosphere about her, which imparts a soothing and sustaining influence, and renders it easier for all to do right, under her administration, than in any other situation.”

  • Gender was constructed around women as the teachers of values both moral (honesty, piety) and functional (neatness, promptness)

Women’s responsibility included rearing their children to be good citizens of the republic, and to be virtuous people. They were to accomplish this by explicit instruction, by correction of faults, and by modeling virtuous behavior as well as by creating a home environment that reinforced good habits. This quote from the Boston School Kitchen Text-Book  (1887) pinpoints the family dinner as one location for learning to be helpful, considerate, and socially adept.

 “The want of a maid to wait on the table is no excuse for the sort of every-one-for-himself style of serving which is too often seen. Children, boys as well as girls, should be taught and allowed to help in the serving, even if one have a waitress. If they can have a daily share in the duties, filling the glasses, passing butter or sauce, removing the dishes between the courses, etc., nothing will give them more ease and self-possession when unexpectedly called to fill the place of mother or father at the table, or better help to counteract the evil habits of hurried eating and indifference to the wants of others, or better enable them to direct if they should ever have homes and domestics of their own.”

  • Gender was constructed around women as responsible for household economy

Women were charged with regulating household spending, and these works are full of prescriptions for living within your means, and admonitions against extravagance and being irresponsible with money. This quote from The Young Housekeeper’s Friend is full of such advice

 “Consider in the outset what mode of living best befits your station, resources, and obligations to others; and so adjust your plan… It is much better to adopt a style of expenditure below your means than above them. Of the unhappy effects of this last we have many examples in our country…That little sentence, ” I can do without it,” has saved thousands of dollars for future exigencies. Prodigality is as fruitful of mischief as Pandora’s box…Be conscientious, therefore, in the practice of economy. Family comfort can hardly be found without it… Be economical without parsimony, liberal without waste, and practise the best methods of using your possessions without having your mind wholly absorbed by them.”

And from A New System of Domestic Cookery, Formed Upon Principles of Economy; and Adapted to the Use 0f Private Families Throughout the United States. By a Lady. (1814)

“Instances may be found of ladies in the higher walks of life, who condescend to examine the accounts of their house-steward; and, by overlooking and wisely directing the expenditure of that part of their husband’s income which falls under their own inspection, avoid the inconveniencies of embarrassed circumstances. How much more necessary, then is domestic knowledge in those whose limited fortunes press on their attention considerations of the strictest economy! There ought to be a material difference in the degree of care which a person of a large and independent estate bestows on money concerns, and that of a person in confined circumstances : yet both may very commendably employ some portion of their time and thoughts on this subject…Many families have owed their prosperity full as much to the propriety of female management as to the knowledge and activity of the father.”

It’s not all so obvious as the examples I’ve given you, sometimes you have to read more between the lines.

  • Gender was constructed in terms of what women were supposed to care about, down to a pretty fine level of detail

For example, as we’ve seen, if you were a housewife, you had to worry about feeding your family neatly, efficiently, healthfully, and in a comfort-inducing manner. One thing many authors particularly emphasize is the need for good bread. Bread was a major element of the American diet in the 19th century, far more than it is today, and in most cases it was made at home.

If you were going to worry about good bread, you had to worry, first of all, about good flour and good yeast. With flour, which was generally bought by the barrel, you had to worry about knowing good and bad flour when you saw it, and getting it from a reliable source, so you were sure it was of good quality. Then you had to worry about storing it where it would stay dry and cool, and wouldn’t be contaminated, which brought the construction of your kitchen or store-room into consideration.

Then there was yeast, which you probably made yourself, and which had to be not only prepared properly, but also stored in the right kind of container, so as to be kept alive and ready for baking day. Yeast was first commercially produced in the United States in the 1860s, but we see recipes for home-made yeast in cookbooks right through the end of the 19th century.

You also had to see that the bread was well-kneaded (some authors held this couldn’t be trusted to servants, that you had to stand over them to see it was done properly, or do it yourself.) Then you had to see to it that it was allowed to rise at the proper temperature and for the right amount of time, and baked long enough, but not too long, in an oven that was neither too hot nor too cold, which, with wood or coal-burning stoves, was an art in itself. Cookbooks and domestic manuals are full of this kind of detail, the moral burden of which isn’t made explicit, but the charge of women’s roles and responsibilities was always there in the background.

Constructing class.

These books construct class in a number of ways, including numerous aspects of eating, especially dining in company, at dinner parties and on other formal occasions. Class is also constructed through manners more generally, through taste and adherence to fashion, and especially through relations with servants. Most of what we find in these books is about what marks the boundaries for the middle class, sometimes set off against  the class identity of servants.

  •  Class was constructed through food and especially through the rules of the table: what, when, where, how, and with whom you ate all marked your class status.

For instance, this quote from Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book (1855) constructs class through how you set your table

 “There are certain articles which are usually set on together, because it is the fashion, or because they are suited to each other…There are modes of garnishing dishes, and preparing them for table, which give an air of taste and refinement, that pleases the eye.”

And this one from The Successful Housekeeper  (1883) constructs class through taste and connoisseurship

“Dinner giving is an art which only an individual of fine culture and Aesthetic tastes can be successful in, and dining is an accomplishment in which only an epicure can excel.”

Another way of constructing class through food was in different diets for those who did or did not do physical labor. There was an emphasis on lighter eating/preserving digestion for members of the middle class, for instance for men worked in an in office, and for women who did no physical labor at home.

From The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book  (1896)

 “Brain workers should take their proteid in a form easily digested. In consideration of this fact, fish and eggs form desirable substitutes for meat. The working man needs quantity as well as quality, that the stomach may have something to act upon. Corned beef, cabbage, brown-bread, and pastry will not overtax his digestion”

In other words, those who performed intellectual work needed more delicate food, those who did physical labor were to eat coarser food.

Then there was formal dining, especially in entertaining.  What kind of table you set defined your social rank, and the rules for service showed you were in the club of “good society.” This quote from The Century Cook Book (1895) advises on how high to aim, and cautions the reader on not overreaching, so the dinner will be a success and you won’t lose points in the game of social status.

 “When entertaining one should not attempt more than one is sure of being able to attain, bearing in mind the capabilities of the cook and the range, and remembering that the quality of the dishes rather than the number of them is what pleases.”

  • Class was, as I say, also constructed around “taste” or “elegance.”

Taste, refinement, and elegant living were markers of social superiority and carried other values in their wake. In this quote from Beecher & Stowe’s The American Woman’s Home (1869), we see aesthetic sensibilities getting wrapped up with the idea of a superior home environment, one which will give the family members a boost in their social, moral, and intellectual progress


“…while the æsthetic element must be subordinate to the requirements of physical existence…it yet holds a place of great significance among the influences which make home happy and attractive, which give it a constant and wholesome power over the young, and contributes much to the education of the entire household in refinement, intellectual development, and moral sensibility.”

  • Class was constructed around manners.

In the 19th century, rules for etiquette, which is to say rules for the display of manners, or “good breeding”, created an in group and an out group, and within the group you could have a high or a low place, so you had to worry about your score. It’s not just what made you a social success or a social failure –in some circles, then as now, friendliness or charm could make you a success. Rather etiquette was about what made you acceptable in what defined itself as “good society”. This was a club you had to make a special effort to get into, or, if you were born into it, to stay in. Because there was a penalty for not succeeding, exclusion and reputation damage, a lot was riding on manners and correct behavior, and they were a source of anxiety for the middle class and anyone aspiring to it.

For example, this quote from The successful housekeeper brings out the way manners marked class, and the anxiety connected with “getting it right”

“It is almost impossible to commit any dangerous rudeness with the spoon, as with the fork and knife; but there are little observances in handling it which belong to grades of society, and which distinguish the person using it, as either well versed or deficient in the rules of table etiquette.”

  • Class was constructed in the management of servants

The number and kind of servants a household had was a class marker. Employing household servants put the housewife in a managerial position, a position of authority, and these works were very concerned to teach her how to handle it property

In a very large and prosperous households the mistress might be in charge of male servants, footmen or a butler, in very grand establishments perhaps even a male chef, but most middle-class women has charge only of female servants. The discussions of the housewife’s relationship to these maids, nannies, waitresses and cooks are full of advice about how to speak to them, what to expect of them, how to arrange their days and oversee their work, what she needed to teach them, and more.

In The Century Cook Book There’s a section called “to train a green cook” which shows middle-class anxiety about trusting servants (in this case whoever will be in charge of feeding the family) to know what they’re doing.

“If one is obliged to accept the service of inexperienced cooks, or of women who claim to be plain cooks, but in reality know nothing of the right ways of preparing anything, it is often necessary to do more or less teaching or supervising. Often it would be found easier to begin at the beginning, and teach an entirely green girl who has intelligence and a desire to learn, than it is to correct careless habits or bad methods already formed.”

  • Finally, class was constructed around stuff: necessary possessions and furnishings

In instructions for housekeeping, authors construct class by what they assume the reader has in the way of rooms, furnishings, and equipment . When they give instructions that specify how to care for: servants’ quarters, multiple bedrooms,  nursery, dining room, parlor, kitchen, store-rooms, etc,  they mark out the territory occupied by middle-class households. The same happens when they talk of feather beds to be aired, carpets to be beaten, and ornaments to be dusted. And the same goes for tools for housekeeping and cooking. In this quote from Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-Book  in a chapter called “On a proper supply of utensils and conveniences for housekeeping”  she makes it clear who she’s talking to.

“In pointing out the various conveniences to be used in housekeeping, reference will be had to those chiefly who have means to purchase everything they deem useful, and also who can obtain such domestics, that proper care will be taken of whatever is provided.”

You can see the same thing at work in this one from The Century Cook Book

“The dinner has always something of a ceremonious character, being the time when the family all meet with the leisure to enjoy one another’s society after the labors of the day are done. It is well, therefore, to attend to the few material details which aid in making the occasion an agreeable one. Refinements are more clearly shown at table than elsewhere, and the influences of decorum at dinner are more subtle than are always recognized. Let the linen be as spotless and white, the silver and glass as polished …as though guests were present.”

So, we’ve seen how, in their descriptions of women’s work and their concerns, domestic manual and cookbook writers presented specific pictures of gender and class to the middle-class women who were their presumed audience. The authors simultaneously took for granted and promoted values such as devotion to family, and the display of refinement in the home.    In what they assumed they’ve left us a portrait of normative ideas about class and gender, ideas about which there was wide agreement. In the values they take special trouble to promote, we see the cracks in the system, the values that were contested, and that the authors felt were endangered.

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Cooking Schools and Cooking *in* Schools

Posted by JJ Jacobson on September 1, 2011

The Cooking School movement started in England in the last third of the 19th century. It was of a piece with other reforms intended to better the lives of the urban poor.  Workers in rapidly -industrializing England suffered considerable dislocation as they moved to cities, where the available housing had different, and often much sketchier, cooking apparatus than the dwellings of rural laborers. The foodstuffs available in cities were also far different from those in rural settings, so cooking and eating habits invariably shifted. The movement’s original focus was to teach the urban laboring poor to eat well within their means.

A national training school opened in 1873, continuing the work by training cooking teachers.  Buckmaster’s cookery : being an abridgment of some of the lectures delivered in the cookery school at the International Exhibition for 1873 and 1874 : together with a collection of approved recipes and menus  is an artifact of this phase of the movement.  The lectures address topics that were to be reiterated at length in other Cooking School publications: soup as a healthy, economical, and underappreciated aliment; how to manage leftovers; food as fuel for the human machine, and the need for girls to be educated in kitchen and household arts.

In America, reformers and cookbook writers soon took up the cause, but as the movement took hold in America, the focus began to shift. American reformers were much concerned with the issue of unemployment, and began to hold classes designed to teach unemployed women the skills that would allow them to find work as household servants. Such classes did not, it turned out, pay the rent, and it wasn’t long before the schools began to feature classes aimed at a middle class audience, which thereafter existed side by side with classes for women already employed as domestics.

Late 19th century cookbooks and domestic manuals are full of talk about the problems with the American diet:  American cooking was denigrated as indigestible, unhealthy, and wasteful.  The word “dyspepsia” was on everyone’s lips. Experts of all kinds put forward schemes for the reform of the national diet; the reformers of the Cooking School movement touted a more scientific approach in the practice of cooking to address this national ill. In this we see the promotion of the professionalization and rationalization of cooking, as of many elements of American life in the last third of the 19th century. There was also a push for cooking to be taught in public schools, and the Domestic Science movement (later the Home Economics movement) had similar aims for housekeeping and the management of the home.

Cooking schools began publishing cookbooks within a few years of their formation, and this new kind of cookbook was an established phenomenon by the mid-1880s. We have excellent examples of this genre of culinary publishing, and the related one of textbooks for cooking classes in the public schools, which became popular a little later.

The earliest of this wave of American cooking schools was Juliet Corson’s New York Cooking School, launched in 1876.  (There had been earlier American cooking schools and classes, but that’s a topic for another post.) We have Corson’s 1879 Cooking school text book and housekeepers’ guide to cookery and kitchen management: an explanation of the principles of domestic economy taught in the New York Cooking School .  It gives lessons for the “artisan course”, the “plain cooks course”, and the “ladies’ course in middle class and artistic cookery” giving us a window into the social stratification of food and cooking in Gilded Age America. The preface also sounds what will become a familiar note for cooking schools:

“In presenting this text-book to the public, we desire to call attention to the necessity for accompanying technical instruction with some explanation of the principles of cookery as applicable to the preservation of the general health. A book of mere receipts would fail to accomplish the purpose we have in view, i.e., some intelligent comprehension on the part of the cook of the chemistry of food and the physiology of nutrition.”

The Boston Cooking-School, started in 1879, was perhaps the most influential of the American cooking schools. It was the first to be incorporated (in 1883) and it spawned the very popular Boston Cooking-School Magazine, published until 1914.  It also gave rise to one of the most popular cookbooks ever published in the US: Fannie Merit Farmer’s    Boston Cooking-School cook book , which we hold in the 1896 first edition. While not a textbook per se (no lesson plans, no advice to the teacher) the book is very much the product of the Cooking School movement. It begins with this

“With the progress of knowledge the needs of the human body have not been forgotten. During-the last decade much time has been given by scientists to the study of foods and their dietetic value, and it is a subject which rightfully should demand much consideration from all. I certainly feel that the time is not far distant when a knowledge of the principles of diet will be an essential part of one’s education. Then mankind will eat to live, will be able to do better mental and physical work, and disease will be less frequent.”

The project of rationalizing cooking, and making it into a scientific area of study is everywhere evident in the book; there is an exhaustive attempt to be exact about procedures, and the first chapter, on food, takes up the fuel-for-the-human-machine theme.  This gives the whole a somewhat pedantic tone. Cooking, we are shown, is a serious business. On the upside, Farmer’s attention to technique makes it an easier book to cook from, today, than many of its contemporaries, 19th century cookbooks being often somewhat vague about  what the reader is supposed to do with the ingredients named, perhaps because the assumption was that anyone picking up a cookbook was already versed in cooking. No such assumption is made here, and in the recipes it’s possible to trace the precise, step-by-step,  directions given to students at the school. The words of advice on measuring succinctly encapsulate the movement’s take on the relationship between the new and old approaches to cooking:

“Correct measurements are absolutely necessary to insure the best results. Good judgment, with experience, has taught some to measure by sight; but the majority need definite guides.”

A crossover genre may be seen in The easiest way in housekeeping and cooking: adapted to domestic use or study in classes by Helen Campbell which we have in the 1881 and 1893  editions. The metaphor of the body as a mechanism to be fueled by proper food flourishes in this book. At the end of the chapter on “the Body and its Composition” we find the following:

“With this basis, to give us some understanding of the complicated and delicate machinery with which we must work, the question arises, what food contains all these constituents, and what its amount and character must be. The answer to this question will help us to form an intelligent plan for providing a family with the right nutrition.”

And in the same section we find a table of “Analogies of the steam-engine and the living body”

The first cooking classes in public schools began in Boston in the mid-1880s.They began with experiments by proponents of “manual training,” (the need for which was a hotly debated contemporary educational theory) created to establish the utility and popularity of such classes.  (An early 20th century history of the movement in Boston can be found in the “Home Economics in the Public Schools” chapter of The Home Economics Movement by  Isabel Bevier and Susannah Usher, to be found at the internet Archive, here)

Mrs. D.A. Lincoln (Mary Johnson Bailey Lincoln) was the principal of the Boston Cooking School from 1879 to 1885, and was active as a teacher and an author thereafter. We have her 1887 Boston school kitchen text-book : lessons in cooking for the use of classes in public and industrial schools .  It, too, takes up the theme of a scientific understanding of food, cooking, and nutrition. Lessons include rudimentary physics in explanations of the cooking processes, something approaching chemistry in the composition of foodstuffs, and detailed commentary on nutrition and digestion. The volume gives us a valuable window into the pedagogical process, as practiced in the classes: each lesson has its set of recipes to be cooked, and is proceeded by suggestions to the teacher, allowing us to see the details of the process of teaching. Lessons are also followed by sets of questions, making explicit what the students were intended to take away from them.

An altogether more curious volume is the 1890 Cookery in the public schools by Sallie Joy White, (Brief biography here) which gives us a window into the movement as it got underway. It’s pitched to girls who were potential students of cooking classes, and the author adopts a chatty, anecdotal style, addressing the readers at one point as “…my dear little amateur cooks who read this.” Besides providing a first-hand look at how adults addressed children at the end of the 19th century, and what topics and strategies one author thought fitting to engage children’s interest,  it also gives us a window into the rhetoric used to support the establishment of cooking classes in public schools, the perceived need for manual training and cooking instruction, and the contemporary perceptions and preoccupations that made them seem desirable.

We also hold a dozen more works on cooking in the public schools from the early 20th century. Through our works on cooking schools and cooking in schools, the researcher can explore a fascinating chapter in the history of cooking as a daily necessity, an element of home life, a public good, a debated educational priority, and a site of the performance of class and gender in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Posted in Narratives, WLCL Culinary Materials | 1 Comment »

What (and how) Civil War soldiers ate

Posted by JJ Jacobson on April 28, 2011

This month marks the sesquicentennial of the beginning of the Civil War, and our current exhibit is on the first year of the war.  What follows is the substance of a presentation I gave at an Afternoon With The Curators last week.

When I went looking for collections of civil war letters with references to food and eating, I found them using a remarkable tool that’s been developed here at the Clements over the past 8 years: The Food and Society References Database. This searchable database in effect annotates source material in the manuscript collections.  Dedicated volunteers, led by Phil Zaret are identifying material on American food and related social topics. Manuscript
collections (approximately a quarter of the 2500 collections held by the Manuscript Division) have been extensively tagged for food and culinary-related content. The records also note other social phenomena, under such headings as transportation, medicine, and education. To date, we’ve created an index of about 80,000 records

Using the database, I was able to efficiently find mentions of army camp food and eating in such collections as the Hacker letters, which contains many letters written from Union army encampments by Rohloff and Philip Hacker, two brothers from Michigan who served from  1861 to 1863.  The Finding Aid for the collection is here

The brothers’ letters give a detailed picture of what Union soldiers ate and what deprivations they felt. There’s a good deal about what home food they missed, one way or another.  Many of these come in responses to news from home: mention of food-related activities at home, such as harvesting, created cravings for home food. Memories of eating are woven into their memories of home life, with remembered meals standing in some way for the security and comfort of life at home

Rohloff Hacker, in a letter home dated November 16-17th 1861

“I am glad that your crops have done so well this year …  Chester told me that they were at buckwheat already. Oh! Father, would I not like to eat with you some cold morning those hot cakes, sausage, yes, and many other things which cannot get here”

Moreover, as farm boys they’re aware of crops in the areas they pass through, and there are many reports of crops similarity or difference to what they’re used to at home. In a letter written October 5, 1861Philip writes home

“We have roasted a great deal of green corn this last week and I doubt whether the corn is riper here than in Michigan”

And in another, (August 11, 1861) Rohloff says

“I do not understand how that potatoes can grow here for the ground is so clayey and hard that while building baterys it must be all picked with the mattock”

And in yet another (September 29, 1861) Philip says

I will send you a few tomatoes different from any I have seen in Michigan. The vines when stretched are taller than 2 [ The tomatoes small smooth and long and sweeter than the common kind.

Looking just at the 1st year of the war, the letters show the range of ways soldiers were fed in camp and on the march:

  • They were issued rations, typically very basic: cornmeal or flour , sugar, coffee, molasses, salt pork, fresh or salt beef, hard tack or crackers, sometimes with the addition of beans, fresh or desiccated vegetables (which the soldiers hated, and called “desecrated vegetables”) and rice or hominy.
  • Another way soldiers got food was in boxes sent by friends or families, soldiers asking for and commenting on the arrival of boxes is a frequent feature of letters, this particularly shows what foods soldiers craved

Rohloff Hacker on receiving a box, early November 1861:

“I felt so glad that you in Brighton have not forgotten me. So many nice things both for wear & eat, especially that cake from Lilly it was some broken (the box was cracked all about but string held) Now whom sent those round cakes and that great large square one – they were all so good it made me think of great times in old Mich”

  • It seems they sometimes had the option of buying extra food from the quartermaster, although this was a privilege usually reserved for officers, who, instead of drawing rations were issued a monthly cash allowance with which to buy their supplies.

Rohloff C. Hacker  around October 1861

” When we …  gets only coffee and bread we feel cross and go to the Brigade Quartermaster and buy such as we think best.”

  • Union Soldiers throughout the war bought food and drink from sutlers, authorized merchants who had an established business selling to the regiments: Sutlers sold beer, whiskey, and tobacco but also foodstuffs . There are numerous references in the Civil War letters of soldiers going to the sutler’s to satisfy their cravings for more palatable food than their  rations: milk, butter, fresh fruit, and canned goods
  • Sutlers weren’t the only ones who sold food to the soldiers, of course.  Soldiers also bought food from  what some of the writers refer to as Hucksters: locals who came to camp to sell food or sold by the side of the road: these seem to have been mostly ready-to-consume foods, cakes, pies, fruit, cider, and candy are all mentioned in our Civil War  letters.
  • Soldiers also bought eatables from locals who sold food out of their houses or off their farms.
  • Soldiers also got some of their food by foraging, either under orders, or on their own initiative. Foraging meant a number of things to the writers of our letters.  In the most straightforward  “living off the land” sense it meant things like picking fruit or gathering nuts, fishing, and hunting

Rohloff C. Hacker October 27, 1861

“I with 2 of my comrades off went in the woods and around sight seeing & eating walnuts butternuts and hickory nuts had a good time”

  • Soldiers also appropriated  food from houses and farms, either abandoned or still occupied.  This was another meaning of “foraging.” Another term for it was “cramping”

Rohloff Hacker,  undated

“We had not been there long when some of the boys went out for what we call cramping and soon returned with a 12 or more of hogs and pigs which they had shot.

  • Many soldiers, from the evidence of their letters, considered it perfectly fair game to take food from an inhabited farm or homestead, I found  mentions of procuring fresh corn, other kinds of produce, and honey, of milking pastured cows, and of killing livestock for meat

Consider this quote from a letter dated October 5th, 1861, by Philip Hacker. Speaking of a householder whom he characterizes as “an old secessionist preacher that lives near us … a double tonged man and a regular hipocrit” he says

“… when we retook the place last Saturday night they revenged themselves a little by helping themselves to his hogs fowls milk cakes and etc. Last Sunday morning he wanted us to give him two cts. for each canteen of water but we took all the water we wanted in spite of him. He had some cakes and pies for which he charged an enormous price which so exasperated some of our men that they took all without even thanking … one of our men shot one of his cows and for a while milked his other two. He also has a large cornfield near us and we use of it all we want”

Food has always borne an especial importance for soldiers, who have extra trouble procuring it but who need it more than ever–for morale as well as their extra nutritional requirements. Ingenuity is valued, and gratitude heartfelt. From the evidence of our Civil War letters, meals were a significant source of comfort and interest in soldiers’ day to day lives. The letters provide documentation of the variety of official and unofficial ways the soldiers were fed, and of their attitudes towards and feelings about all things gustatory. For exploring these matters, the above examples show how our Food and Society Database is an invaluable tool for saving the researcher’s time.

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Changing tastes – what’s new is old.

Posted by JJ Jacobson on January 23, 2011

One of the stories we tell ourselves is that, if you look in a cookbook from a previous era, you will find vegetables cooked much longer than we would no countenance. There’s the lamentable tendency to shake our heads and tut about the fate of the poor veggies.

And it’s true, you can certainly find that. In our 1866 edition of Mrs Beeton’s Book of household management, you will find this recipe for spinach in the English style:

TO BOIL SPINACH (English Mode).
1155- Ingedients.—2 pailfuls of spinach, 2 heaped tablespoonfuls of salt, 1 oz. of butter, pepper to taste.
Mode.—Pick the spinach carefully, and see that no stalks or weeds are left amongst it; wash it in several waters, and, to prevent it being gritty, act in the following manner:— have ready two large pans or tubs filled with water; put the spinach into one of these, and  thoroughly wash it; then, with the hands, take out the spinach, and put it into the other tub of water (by this means all the grit will be left at the bottom of the tub); wash it again, and, should it not be perfectly free from dirt, repeat the process. Put it into a very large saucepan, with about 1/2 pint of water, just sufficient to keep tho spinach from burning, and the above proportion of salt. Press it down frequently with a wooden spoon, that it may be done equally; and when it has boiled for rather more than 10 minutes, or until it is perfectly tender, drain it in a colander, squeeze it quite dry, and chop it finely. Put the spinach into a clean stewpan, with the butter and a seasoning of pepper; stir the whole over the fire until quite hot; then put it on a hot dish, and garnish with sippets of toasted bread.
Time.—10 to 15 minutes to boil the spinach, 5 minutes to warm with the butter.
Average cost for the above quantity, 8d.
Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.
Seasonable.—Spring spinach from March to July; winter spinach from November to March.
Note.—Grated nutmeg, pounded mace, or lemon-juice may also be added to enrich the flavour; and poached eggs are also frequently served with spinach: they should be placed on the top of it, and it should be garnished with sippets of toasted bread

1888 edition available at Google books, here

Moreover, Marion Harland’s  1882 Common sense in the household: a manual of practical housewifery (online here) recommends an even longer time, 15 to 20 minutes, and in her in her 1884 Cookery for beginners: a series of familiar lessons for young housekeepers she calls for it to be cooked for 45 minutes.

But it turns out that it depends on which cookbook, and how old.

Elizabeth Raffald, in 1806 (The experienced English housekeeper: for the use and ease of ladies …)  has a much shorter boiling time:

To stew Spinage.

WASH your spinage well in several waters, put it in a cullendar, have ready a large pan of boiling water, with a handful of salt, put it in, let it boil two minutes, it will take off the strong earthy taste, then put it into a sieve, squeeze it well, put a quarter of a pound of butter into a tossing pan, put in your spinage, keep turning and chopping it with a knife until it be quite dry and green, lay it upon a plate, press it with another, cut it in the shape of sippets or diamonds, pour round it very rich melted butter, it will eat exceeding mild, and quite a different taste from the common way.

Looking further back, in an edition of Hannah Glasse’s Art of cookery, from 1796, we find the following directions for spinach, very much as we would cook it now.

Stewed spinage and eggs
PICK and wash your spinage very clean, put it into a saucepan with a little salt, cover it close, shake the pan often; when it is just tender and whilst it is green throw it into a sieve to drain, lay it in your dish…

A 1784 edition is more explicit

To dress spinach
PICK it very clean, and wash it in five or six waters; put it in a sauce-pan that will just hold it, throw a little salt over it, and cover the pan close. Don’t put any water in, but shake the pan often. You must put your sauce-pan on a clear quick; fire. As soon as you find the greens are shrunk and fallen to the bottom, and that the liquor which comes out of them boils up, they are enough. Throw them into a clean sieve, to drain, and just give them a little squeeze. Lay them in a plate, and never put any butter on it but put it in a cup.

This is not to say that no one in the the late 18th century cooked the stuffing out of spinach, but it does point out the unwisdom of thinking we know what we’ll find when we peer at the past through the window of cookbooks.

I’ll let Marion Harland have the last word on spinach, with advice that is good even today…

Boiled Spinach.

In respect to quantity, spinach is desperately deceitful. I never see it drained after it is boiled without bethinking myself of a picture I saw many years since, illustrative of the perils of innocent simplicity. A small (lucky) boy and big (unlucky) one have been spending their holiday in fishing. While the former, well satisfied with the result of his day’s sport, is busy putting up his rod and tackle, the designing elder dexterously substitutes his own string of minnows for the other’s store of fine perch. The little fellow, turning to pick it up, without a suspicion of the cruel cheat, makes piteous round eyes at his fellow, ejaculating, “How they have shrunk!”

A young housekeeper of my acquaintance, ordering a spring dinner for herself and husband, purchased a quart of spinach. When it should have appeared upon the table, there came in its stead a platter of sliced egg, she having given out one for the dressing. “Where is the spinach?” she demanded of the maid of all work. “Under the egg, ma’am!” And it was really all there.

Moral.—Get enough spinach to be visible to the naked eye. A peck is not too much for a family of four or five.









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Sarah Josepha Hale and Thanksgiving

Posted by JJ Jacobson on November 25, 2010

If Americans have any one person to thank for the Thanksgiving holiday, it is Sarah Josepha Buell Hale. Hale waged a decades-long campaign for the establishment of a national Thanksgiving Day on the last Thursday of November.

She was born Sarah Josepha Buell on October 24th, 1788 in Newport, New Hampshire.
She was educated at home, with tutoring in Latin, philosophy, English, and classical literature by her brother while he was a student at Dartmouth. As a young woman she distinguished herself as a teacher  at a private school in Newport. She was married in 1813 to David Hale, a lawyer, with whom she continued to study such topics as French, botany, geology, and literature. She remained a strong proponent of education for women throughout her life. When she was widowed in 1822, she turned to literature as a means to support herself and her children.  She established her reputation in 1827 with the novel Northwood, in which we already see a Thanksgiving theme emerging: a Thanksgiving holiday forms the background for part of the action, and the Thanksgiving meal has a chapter of its own, with roast turkey and pumpkin pie being given pride of place on the groaning board.

From 1837 to 1877 Hale was the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, a wildly successful magazine for women which achieved a circulation of 150,000 by 1865. Hale used her monthly editorial to advocate for the causes to which she was committed. While she was especially enthusiastic about education for women, she also agitated for women’s employment,  a monument on Bunker Hill, making Mount Vernon a national shrine, the elevation of housekeeping to a profession, and of course Thanksgiving.

Hales campaign to have Thanksgiving declared a national holiday began in the 1840s. She wrote an editorial about it every year from 1846 on, and corresponded with state and territorial governors, members of congress, and presidents to promote the last Thursday of November as the official day. A typical editorial, from October 1858, said:

“The last Thursday in November falls, this year, on the twenty-fifth. May we not hope that our nation will unite, on this day, in keeping the festival? The Governors of the States and Territories might, by uniting on this day, make the year memorable in our annals to the end of time. Will not the editors of newspapers lead the way in this union of hearts, at our national festival? Then the last Thursday in November would soon come to be considered the American’s Thanksgiving Day, and wherever our countrymen dwelt the day would be a festival.”
The custom gathered force, due in part to Hale’s promotion of it, with many states and territories declaring a holiday on the appointed day. Hale’s efforts finally met with success in 1863, when Lincoln, in a proclamation of October 3rd, proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national holiday. Subsequent presidents followed suit, and in 1941, a Congressional Joint Resolution officially set the fourth Thursday of November as a national holiday for Thanksgiving.

Hale contributed largely to periodicals besides her own and published more than forty volumes of poetry, fiction, plays, biography, household management, and cookery.  The Clements has a number of her works, including the 1873 revised edition of her Mrs. Hale’s new cook book : a complete cookery book for all classes with rules and illustrations for household management and full directions for carving, arranging the table for parties, etc. : together with preparations of food for invalids and for children.

The book contains recipes the modern cook would recognize for the central dishes of the Thanksgiving meal: roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Here is her recipe for roast turkey:

To roast a Turkey.—Prepare a stuffing of pork sausage meat, one beaten egg, and a few crumbs of bread; or, if sausages are to be served with the turkey, stuffing as for fillet of veal: in either, a little shred shalot is an improvement. Stuff the bird under the breast; dredge it with flour, and put it down to a clear brisk fire; at a moderate distance the first half-hour, but afterwards nearer. Baste with butter; and when the turkey is plumped up, and the steam draws towards the fire, it will be nearly done; then dredge it lightly with flour, and baste it with a little more butter, first melted in the basting-ladle. Serve with gravy in the dish, and bread sauce in a tureen. …

A very large turkey will require three hours’ roasting; one of eight or ten pounds, two hours ; and a small one, an hour and a half.

Roasted chestnuts, grated or sliced, and green truffles, sliced, are excellent additions to the stuffing for turkeys.

The book is also a platform for a certain amount of editorializing.

Hale had high aspirations for women as a moral force in the world. She felt women should not directly involve themselves in politics, and therefore opposed suffrage.  Rather she advocated women working in their domestic sphere (and in suitable occupations such as teaching) to influence those under their care. The preface to Mrs Hale’s new cook book claims the influence of women in the home as significant work in an important sphere of action:

“Cookery, as an Art, ranks in the highest department of useful knowledge, connected, as it is, with the welfare of every human being.

When understood in all its bearings and conducted on scientific principles, it promotes health and happiness, moral and social improvement, and adds the charm of contentment to every-day life.”
This is a familiar theme for the proponents of Domestic Science, a term Hale coined: women were to make the world a better place by creating an environment that would foster virtue, whereupon virtuous action would diffuse from the home into society.

Hale, like many of the writers and teachers who espoused this idea, was not herself averse to acting on a wider stage, with her editorials, letter writing, and other campaigns for the causes she undertook. If she had been, our Thanksgiving holiday might look very different.

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Talk on Candymaking, Oct. 7th

Posted by JJ Jacobson on October 3, 2010

We have about 100 works in the collection that treat, to one degree or another, of confectionery. Of those, about 2 dozen are all or primarily about making confections. The earliest is an 1800 edition of Hannah Glasse’s Complete Confectioner “with considerable additions and corrections, by Maria Wilson.”  (A similar edition is available here)

There’s a good deal of history to be divined from these works, especially when you consider them set against the spiraling  production and consumption of sugar in the 18th & 19th centuries.  As sugar grew more available, cooks and confectioners developed a plethora of ways to use it. In the Glasse book, there are numerous chapters that ring the changes just on what you can do with sugar and fruit: compotes, conserves, jam, jellies, marmalades, clear cakes, dried fruit with sugar, etc, not to mention all the other confections.

But occasionally these works find another use. Ann Arbor is fortunate enough to be the home of a candy maker with a deep interest in handmade candy, and he’s been in on and off over the last several weeks, studying some of our candy manuals from the mid-19th century.  Now, there’s an opportunity to hear him speak on his engagement with sugar and what can be made with it.

Charlie Frank is the principal in Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory, makers of Zzang bars.  You can read enthusiastic reviews of his candy here and here. What he strives for, at the cost of no little trouble, is the pleasures that come with absolutely fresh candy, made by hand with care, and shipped in small batches.

This week, Charlie is giving a talk on his candy making, and the devotion that lies behind it. Below is the official announcement.

Charlie Frank, “Candy and Passion – A Sweet Life”

Thursday, October 7th, 7:00-8:30 pm
Held in the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) Gallery in Room 100 (use Diag entrance)
913 S. University Ave., Ann Arbor, MI
Public parking is available in the structure at 650 S. Forest, just south of S. University
Free and open to the public!

Charlie Frank, Candymaker and head of Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory, will talk about his path to a life making candy, his enthusiasm for his work, how candy is made at Zingerman’s, and how everybody can relate to his passion for…SUGAR! Candy tasting and a Q&A will follow.

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The Suffrage Cook Book, 1915

Posted by JJ Jacobson on September 20, 2010

I’m giving a short talk tomorrow about a very special charity cookbook. The Suffrage Cook Book, compiled by L.O. Kleber. If you want to make its acquaintance you can find it online as full text at Gutenberg here, and as page images here (requires the DJVU plugin.) It was published for a Suffrage group, the Equal Franchise Federation of Western Pennsylvania, in 1915.

We have more than 1000 charity cookbooks, 700 and some of them cataloged. You can find them in Mirlyn, the University of Michigan Libraries’ catalog, by going to advanced search, and putting “charity cookbooks” in the “Subjects” field.

The first charity cookbook was Maria J. Moss’ A Poetical Cook Book, written for the 1864 Sanitary Fair in Philadelphia, an exposition held by the Philadelphia branch of the United States Sanitary Commission, a relief organization whose funds went to support those wounded, widowed, or orphaned by the Civil War. You can read more about The Great Philadelphia Sanitary Fair here, read Lincoln’s address at a similar fair in Baltimore here, or see a splendid image of the fair building here.

Charity cookbooks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries embraced many causes, everything from support for the local church building fund to national-scale movements like Temperance. Suffrage is a strikingly apt cause for a charity cookbook, as a move by women to act in the public sphere.

I call it apt because the act of creating a charity cookbook was a crossover activity: women who created these books were, on the one hand, staying within women’s sanctioned sphere – what could be more securely within women’s domestic concerns than cooking?

However, they were also publishing a book, and fundraising for an unabashedly political cause, and thereby participating in a national debate, so they were taking action on the national stage.

Much more on this and related topics can be found in our exhibit on “The Old Girl Network”.

The Suffrage Cook Book is a thoroughly portmanteau affair. Most of the recipes are unattributed, but there is a lengthy list of contributors, and some of the contributors were clearly solicited because of their prominence as social activists: there are attributed recipes from Jane Addams, the founder of Hull House, Feminist author Charlotte Perkins Gillman, and Suffrage notables Carrie Chapman Catt and Constance Lytton.  There are also a few vanilla celebrities like Jack London and the actress Madame (Alla) Nazimova.  There is, moreover, a dedicated poem by James Whitcomb Riley, and an introduction by Pittsburgh journalist Erasmus Wilson, for 36 years the author of the column “The Quiet Observer.”

There are portraits of the celebrities, and other, presumably prominent, contributors. There are also portraits of a number of governors of states which had already passed female suffrage:  Arizona, California, Wyoming, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Washington, and Oregon. Along with his portrait, each of these politically savvy gentlemen sent a letter in support of suffrage, to the effect that women were thoughtful, responsible voters who support good government, and that their voting was of inestimable benefit to the state in question. This one, from Moses Alexander of Idaho, will serve to represent the whole:

Woman Suffrage has gone beyond the trial stage in Idaho. We have had it in operation for many years and it is now thoroughly and satisfactorily established. Its repeal would not carry a single county in the State.

The women form an intelligent, patriotic and energetic element in our politics. They have been instrumental in accomplishing many needed reforms along domestic and moral lines, and in creating a sentiment favorable to the strict enforcement of the law.

The tenor of the whole book is very forward-looking — no pining for the Good Old Days here — and anticipates a future both rational and bright. The introduction makes it a point to reconcile, or maybe I should say to align,  the two perhaps slightly contradictory impulses of the book, the action in the traditional smaller and revolutionary larger spheres, connecting women’s safely traditional mission to their newfound political one….

In these later times professors of the culinary art tell us the cooking has been reduced to a science, and that there is no more guess work about it. They have given high sounding names to the food elements, figured out perfectly balanced rations, and adjusted foods to all conditions of health, or ill health.

Now that women are coming into their own, and being sincerely interested in the welfare of the race, it is entirely proper that they should prescribe the food, balance the ration, and tell how it should be prepared and served.

Two distinctly satiric recipes are slipped in among the regular ones for suet pudding and stuffed tomatoes, which give the flavor of the informal side of the suffrage controversy, four years before the passage of the 19th Amendment, and five years before its ratification.

An opponent of suffrage was known as an “Anti”, and here is a recipe for…

Anti’s Favorite Hash
(Unless you wear dark glasses you cannot make a success of Anti’s Favorite Hash.)
1 lb. truth thoroughly mangled
1 generous handful of injustice. (Sprinkle over everything in the pan)
1 tumbler acetic acid (well shaken)
A little vitriol will add a delightful tang and a string of nonsense should be dropped in at the last as if by accident.

Stir all together with a sharp knife because some of the tid bits will be tough propositions.

Later on, we find this one

Pie for a Suffragist’s Doubting Husband
1 qt. milk human kindness
8 reasons:
White Slavery
Child Labor
8,000,000 Working Women
Bad Roads
Poisonous Water
Impure Food

Mix the crust with tact and velvet gloves, using no sarcasm, especially with the upper crust. Upper crusts must be handled with extreme care for they quickly sour if manipulated roughly.

Clearly valuable political lessons were being learned here.

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Making candy at home in the late 19th century

Posted by JJ Jacobson on August 29, 2010

In preparation for an exhibit on sugar, I’ve been looking at a set of home candy making manuals from that 1880’s and 90’s. Cookbooks had, of course, been giving recipes for making confectionery at home for more than 100 years, when these were published, so what sets them apart?

First, a little sugar history…

Sugar was originally known to Europe as a rare and costly spice, but the growth of sugarcane production, first in the Mediterranean and then in the Atlantic regions, made it ever more available. Between the middle of the 17th and the middle of the 19th century, sugar was transformed from a luxury to a widely consumed commodity. Grain, livestock, lumber and salt cod from America were crucial to the maintenance of the sugar colonies in the West Indies in the 18th century, and by the mid 19th Americans had access to plentiful cane sugar from the East and West Indies, plus its own cane sugar from Louisiana and beet sugar from the broad “beet belt” across the continent. As production and consumption chased each other upwards,  prices fell, and by the mid 19th century it was a thoroughly common article of diet in the US.

Now, back to cookbooks…

The first cookbooks in English that relied on sugar were addressed to those who cooked for great households, for instance François Massialot’s Court and Country Cook of 1702, which included a translation of his Nouvelle instruction pour les confitures from 1692. But sugar was rapidly ceasing to be the province of the wealthy, and sometime around 1760 Hannah Glasse published her  Complete Confectioner OR, THE Whole Art of Confectionary Made Plain and Easy,  and in 1789 Frederick Nutt (who had apprenticed with Domenico Negri, the reigning confectioner of his age) published his Complete confectioner or, The whole art of confectionary: forming a ready assistant to all genteel families, both directed at households of the middling sort.

Nutt’s work was reprinted in America by 1807, and in 1828 Eliza Leslie published her Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats, of which she has this to say…

“The receipts in this little book are, in every sense of the word, American; but the writer flatters herself that (if exactly followed) the articles produced from them will not be found inferior to any of a similar description made in the European manner.”

Browsing through any of these works, what one is struck by is just how finicking and laborious the making of sweets by hand was. But, in the middle years if the 19th century, technology was not standing still, and neither was the confectionery trade. When sugar was a luxury, professional confectioners catered to the well-to-do, providing sweetmeats, ice creams, and elaborate sugar and pastry sculptures to grace the table at grand meals, but as sugar dropped in price, confectioners’ goodies came within reach of more and more consumers. And then, as I say, there was technology. Confectioners and inventors developed specialized machines to handle the many intricate and painstaking processes the confectionery art involved. Henry Weatherly, in his  Treatise on the Art of Boiling Sugar, Crystallizing, Lozenge-making, Comfits, Gum Goods, and Other Processes for Confectionery (1865) puts it neatly

“Twenty years since it was considered rather a clever thing (with a pair of scissors, the principal tool a sugar boiler used) to cut a seven pound boil of acid drops to size, and, with the help of a practised boy, make them round and press them flat, with the hands, in half-an-hour. The same quantity may now, with the machine, be made into drops, by the boy alone, in five minutes.”

Mechanization and cheap sugar ushered in the age of penny candy, arguably the original modern consumer good aimed specifically at children. This brings us back to our 1880s and 90s home candy manuals, published at a time when candy was becoming ever more abundant and cheap, as this was also the era of pure food scandals.

The four candy manuals I’ve been looking at all betray a distinct anxiety about adulterated, commercially produced candy and send the message that making candy at home keeps the family safe from the unwholesome commercial article. In an era when reformers tried to persuade parents to restrict children’s purchase and consumption of candy, warning that it would lead to adult vices like tobacco and alcohol, these books seem to seek to make candy safe by bringing it under control in the home sphere. They promote candy making as a wholesome domestic pastime, as well as a defense against adulterated food , and indeed this era saw the rise of candy-making as a genteel leisure activity.

Candy Making at Home: Containing Full Directions for Making in Your Own Kitchen About Two Hundred and Fifty Different Kinds … by One Who Has Tried It published in 1884 begins by quoting in full a scare article republished from The Household of Brattleboro, Vermont, June 1879 , which gives the tenor of the conversation about pure and impure candy.

“Adulterated Confectionery — In raising adulteration
to the dignity of a science, says the Boston Commercial
Bulletin, the manufacturers of confectionery have done
their part. Properly, there are only three component
parts in pure confectionery — the sugar, or body of the
matter; the extract, or flavoring quahty of the same, and
the coloring property. To such a degree of ingenuity have
candy-makers arrived, that some kinds of their wares are
put up fur the market wnth only a very slight proportion
of the first, and with the coloring and flavoring of so cheap
a quality, that their ‘manufactured articles can be bought
at the same price per pound as the plain sugar itself.

It is not to be supposed that there is no pure confection
ery. Those who purchase at our best and old-established
places are morally sure of getting a genuine article.
But children do not always go to these places. They
strike for the nearest shop or store and where they can
get the most for their pennies. The cheaper candies, of
which hundreds of tons are sold every year, contain some
of the most deadly poisons known, among them red lead,
gamboge, vermillion, chromate of lead, Prussian blue,
verditer or carbonate of copper, arsenite of copper, Brunswick
green, the various oxides of iron, white lead, etc
Terra alba, a kind of clay or white earth is very largely
used, in some qualities it forming from 50 to 60 per cent.
of the manufactured article. “


“The worst eftects of the use of terra alba are, that the
terrible diseases of stone and gravel are caused by the in-
troduction of earth into the system, and the large increase
of patients suffering from these diseases is attributed by
high medical authorities to the introduction of this terri-
ble ingredient into the confectionery and similar arti-
cles consumed in this country.

Glucose, or “grape sugar,” is the name of another dan-
gerous article extensively used in the adulteration of can-
dies. It is not, as its name would imply, made from grapes,
but from potatoes, and its effect is to produce paralysis of
various portions of the system, especially the kidneys,
where the effect is not only to paralize them, but to turn
them into a sugary substance; in other words^ to produce
Bright’s disease, a malady for which physicians have found
as yet no remedy.”

Certainly good reason to make candy at home, instead.

The other books, while less thorough, all manifest the same fears, explicitly or implicitly. The Housewife’s Practical Candy Maker  …Especially Adapted for Manufacture in the American Kitchen  by G.V. Frye. (1889) also harps on purity:

“There is scarcely a mother in the land who does not feel proud in having a choice supply of pure candies on Christmas, New Year’s or the birthday for the ‘little ones’ but it is often difficult to procure goods that are fresh and pure in our smaller cities and towns…”

Sarah Tyson Rorer, in her Home Candy Making of the same year, does likewise

“This little book is the result of careful practice in teaching beginners how to make attractive, wholesome, and palatable varieties of home-made candies…The aim has been to meet the wants of the masses, who, from various causes, cannot obtain the best confections…”

And finally, The Correct Art of Candy-making (1894), part of  Butterick’s Metropolitan Series, flatly admits that it’s fighting a rearguard action against penny candy:

“Children will have candy, but the confectionery offered in many of the shops is adulterated to such an extent, and often with such injurious substances, that it is very unwholesome. Therefore mothers will find it both to their own and their children’s interest to make for the little ones wholesome and delicious candies…”

We also, possibly,  see a whisper of the Colonial Revival in these manuals: most contain recipes for “Old-fashioned Molasses Candy” – the only recipes in which refined sugar does not predominate. The Colonial Revival’s focus on the home, and its nostalgia for a virtuously homespun past may be manifested here as it was in architecture, art, and landscaping. In any event, the safety and innocence of the domestic sphere is vividly contrasted with the heartless hurly-burly of the marketplace.

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Hearing the author

Posted by JJ Jacobson on May 23, 2010

Reading the prefaces of cookbooks attunes the ear to the Authorial voice, but it is by no means only in the preface that that voice is to be found.  I offer, as an example The Queen Cook Book, of 1895, by Mrs. William Hart Boyd, or to give it its full title, The Queen Cook Book: A Careful Compilation Of Recipes And Practical Information For Cooking And Other Household Requirements.

Although there is no preface, Mrs. Boyd is not without opportunities to sermonize:


The four months from the time of strawberries in June, till October, is the harvest time for fruits for every housekeeper, as well as for the industrious farmer, to go earnestly into the work of securing the winter and spring supplies of relishes, preserves, canned fruits, pickles and condiments of various kinds. To an ambitious housekeeper it is a genuine pleasure and satisfaction, that she may be fully equipped to supply the needs of those who are depending upon her for much that goes to make life a pleasure.

There is no claim made for originality in the recipes, as the appellation “Compilation” in the title makes clear. The author draws liberally on Mrs. Rorer and the Home Messenger for her recipes, and also relies on, for instance “a French Chef from Heidelberg” for her recipe for French Fritters, which is Pâte à choux made into balls and deep fried.  But my favorite of her sources is “Bob the Sea-Cook,” who has provided three recipes for the book.  One is for bread, when made at sea (which may indeed count as two recipes, since it includes Bob’s prescription for how to handle yeast for use at sea,) another for  Haricot (Harako) Soup, and a third for an omelette.

Although she is choosy in her sources, she feels free to disagree with them. And she is not so choosy as to omit recipes of which she may not approve, as with Mince Pie:

“The two following recipes I take from the Messenger, but I think them too rich for health; neither do I think it a good plan to boil the mince meat:”

She is, moreover, of two minds about tea:

“Most of the unpleasant effects of tea are ascribed to the volatile oil. The long continued breathing of air impregnated with this oil, produces illness in the packers of tea, who press it down with their bare feet; and the tea tasters at the tea marts in China, who are ever careful not to swallow the infusion, are obliged in a few years to give up their lucrative positions, with shattered constitutions. The Chinese, who drink tea at all times, are careful to use none less than a year old, as in that time the oil either evaporates or is so modified that it ceases to be injurious. Is it not safer not to drink tea at all, and healthier and more nourishing to drink milk either hot or cold (but do not boil) for supper or have a cup of hot cocoa, or chocolate made of milk ?”

But then she goes on to give directions for making this deleterious article.

We get another dose of the authorial voice when she sets herself to tell us about puddings, for which she gives some dozen or more recipes..but not until she has said the following

“Fifty-six years ago there were but few recipes for puddings or pies, both being considered as an extra dish for company. A recipe book of 1838, which was the one I tried to follow, when I first went to housekeeping in 1842, gave recipes for only twelve puddings and seven different kinds of pies. How uncertain I found them. I shall never forget my first baked Indian pudding. I mixed it ready to bake, and left it for the girl to bake (as I was invited out to dine), according to directions in the book, three to four hours. It was more like a rock than a delightful suet pudding. I soon left the book to lie on the shelf for future ages to explore. Some puddings are good either cold or hot. A baked pudding is not as acceptable immediately from the oven as one covered and cooled for ten minutes. A blistering hot pudding is anything but acceptable, no matter how delicate the article may be.”

And she waxes chatty again with Oysters on Toast

“This may be quickly prepared after everything and all the family are ready for tea. Have coals ready for the toast. Toast as many slices of bread as there are members of family. Take as many oysters as you need and scald the pure broth and skim, add butter, pepper, salt, a little cream, and flour enough to make it as thick as cream, and boil a minute to cook the flour, then put in the oysters and let them get boiling hot through without boiling. A half-warmed oyster is not acceptable. Lay buttered toast on platter and pour on oysters and broth. If more broth put it in gravy tureen. Be careful not to have too much broth on toast, or it will be soaked. The toast must be toasted brown, not white nor black. I prepare this myself while the maid toasts the bread, then it is all served hot and seasoned desirable.”

However, by way of contrast, in his final offering, she sees fit to let Bob the Sea Cook speak for himself

Bob The Sea Cook’s Omelet.

“A real French omelet is a natural dish. It don’t want all the fixing most cooking folks put on her. One would think by reading the books that it was as big a thing to do as a suffler. Most books tell you to beat up your whites till they stand, but it ain’t right. A Frenchman don’t take no time in making an omelet. While the butter is in the pan heating, he gets his eggs ready. There ain’t no use to separate whites and yellows. Break the eggs in a bowl, stir them so whites and yellows is mixed thoroughly and that’s all. Two minutes does that. Now don’t you add water, nor milk, nor nothing. You can put cream in, but then that don’t make the old original Johnny omelet, but something else that may be good enough but new fangled. If you have any parsley, chop that up before you begin, that is, if you want a parsley omelet; the parsley, about a teaspoon to six eggs, ought to be as fine as possible; add a little salt and very little white pepper to your eggs and when your butter is a sizzing, tilt over the frying pan a very little and pour in your eggs. It don’t take half a minute to cook. If your butter is hot enough a minute will do it all. Don’t go to turn your omelet with a fork but sling her. She ought to take a whole turn in the air and fall on her other side. But anyhow, if you ain’t up to that trick, you might help her over with a spoon. An overcooked omelet is just a disgrace. It ought to be mellow and a little underdone in the middle. Don’t you never go to give people as knows what an omelet is, something in a flat sheet as tough as a canvas and call it an omelet.”

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